The Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and Loughborough, working in partnership with a further 14 universities, were funded by HEFCE under their Good Management Practice fund, to research and develop career management processes to Contract Researchers, and their managers, in longer term career planning via the development of personal and professional skills. The project identified the main aspects of 'good managment practice' to be:
- attracting / recruiting the right people
- effective induction
- motivating / setting of goals
- regular monitoring and reviewing
- ongoing support
- use of exit strategies
The project, focussing on career planning and support, developed a number of career support mechanisms, namely a Research Career Builder containing a skills matrix whereby Contract Researchers, with assistance if necessary, can measure the levels of their existing skills; two Employment Skills Guidebooks with examples of how transferable skills are being acquired, can be built into projects and can transfer to other work contexts; and a Staff Review Scheme, to facilitate development and monitor progress. A number of training materials, case studies and checklists to enable career tracking have also been developed.
The diagram below represents a framework that can be used by institutions to embed the processes developed by the project into their own existing policies and practices. It has been formulated by talking with and listening to Contract Researchers and their managers, and can be used flexibly to fit into existing practices of induction, review meetings and exit strategies. The framework contains links to the career support mechanisms developed, which can be downloaded and adapted by individuals and for institutional use.
For this framework, or any adaptation of it, to be fully effective in supporting the career development of contract researchers, it is important to achieve 'horizontal consistency' across an institution. This means involvement of a number of departments in the process, to include HR/Personnel, the Staff Development Unit, the Research Office and the Careers Service.